By James Slater: There surely cannot be a single boxing fan, casual or hardcore, who is not familiar with the amazing exploits of the great George Foreman. The Hall of Famer who became a two-time heavyweight king made a habit of defying the odds in both of his legendary careers – be it by destroying the fearsome Joe Frazier in the early 1970s, or by shocking the much younger defending heavyweight champ Michael Moorer in the mid-1990s.
Now retired from the ring, the 62-year-old fan-favourite is extremely busy with a number of projects. Foreman remains a superb business man, but right now he is busily guiding his 28-year-old son George “Monk” Foreman III, as he attempts to follow in his famous father’s footsteps. Managing Monk (who never had a single amateur fight and turned to the pro game late in life), George Senior is using the invaluable experience he has to see to it that his son goes down the right path.
Yesterday, ahead of Monk’s 12th pro fight – against Eric Lindsey in Hampton, Virginia – the Foremans held a press conference to promote the fight. “The Legend Continues” is the tagline for tomorrow night’s show, and yesterday evening UK time, I was fortunate enough to have had a few minutes spent talking with “Big” George over the phone.
Towards the end of a long day, Foreman had little spare time to give, but he very kindly took the time to answer the following questions. Needless to say, it was a true thrill speaking to the very man who made me begin following the sport of boxing in the first place!
James Slater: It’s an incredible honour to be able to speak with you, George. It’s just over 24 years and a month since you began your great comeback; when you fought Steve Zouski in March of 1987. Do you still remember that first step in the comeback well?
George Foreman: Oh, I’ll never forget that fight. You know, the hardest thing for me in that fight was taking my shirt off in public (laughs). I hadn’t done that for so long – I’d kept my shirt buttoned up right to the top!
J.S: The so-called experts were seemingly all against you when you came back: saying you wouldn’t be able to do it at your age and after such a long layoff. Was it satisfying proving so many people wrong?
G.F: There were a lot of sceptical people, yes, because they’d seen it so many times before – ex-champions coming back trying to recapture past glories. But I had something up my sleeve that those guys didn’t have: I was ready and willing to start right from the bottom and go to the top. I was willing to go right back to basics, I wasn’t embarrassed to do that. But I told everyone, I wasn’t just coming back for the Cadillac in the window!
J.S: That amazing night when you regained the crown against Michael Moorer in November of 1994 – that was almost eight years into your return. You had the shot against Holyfield of course, but were you surprised that you won the title back so late in your comeback? Did you envisage winning it back earlier?
G.F: Yes, I really did think I’d get an opportunity earlier than I did; maybe after three years. It surprised me that I had to wait so long. You know, you start to look in the mirror each year and after each birthday and think, can I really do this thing? But I’d told everyone I would do it, so how could I give up and back out just because I was 45? But it doesn’t matter what we say, we never know what’s really going to happen.
J.S: Will we ever see a heavyweight comeback like yours again? I remember you saying one time in your comeback, ahead of a big fight, that you were like the eighth wonder of the world, and that we would never see the likes of what you were doing again.
G.F: (laughs) Actually, a lot of what I was able to do was not from a physical standpoint, it was more a case of me being a good manager for George Foreman. It takes a good manager, and good promoters, for you to be able to get your chance – you know, Barnum and Bailey and all of that (laughs). With the right people behind you, you can get a hundred chances. I’m trying now to be a good manager for Monk Foreman, like I was for myself.
J.S: Did it mean so much more to you to get the crown for a second time? Was it more precious, beating Moorer than it was beating Joe Frazier?
G.F: Oh, it was much more precious. I was a father, even a grandfather by then, and I had something I wasn’t just able to tell my kids and grandkids about – but something I could actually show them. They were all watching that fight (laughs). This battery is getting real low and I have to run. My son will be fighting on Saturday (against “a real tough guy,” according to the young Foreman) – look out for him!
J.S: Thanks so much for your time, Champ!
(Sincere thanks go out to promoter Kipp Elbaum for making this interview possible)